Daily Archives: February 13, 2006

COOL for MT. Work set to begin on meat labeling law

COOL for MT. Work set to begin on meat labeling law

By BECKY BOHRER –
AP Farm Writer – 02/13/06
Helena Independent Record

BILLINGS — Work is set to begin next week on a plan to implement a state law requiring that meat sold in Montana grocery and other stores be labeled to show country of origin.

An advisory council charged with writing rules for the so-called placarding law plans to hold its first meeting Feb. 22. The hope is to have a rough draft of rules — or at the least some ‘‘very good ideas in place to make a first draft’’ — by the end of the day, said Jack Kane, chief of the weights and measures bureau in the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

The department will oversee the labeling program. Inspectors from the weights and measures bureau now visit Montana retailers about twice a year, Kane said.

‘‘The time for discussing whether this (labeling) is a good idea or bad idea is long gone,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re here now, so let’s make rules palatable to all involved.’’

The law requires retailers to post placards denoting the country of origin for beef, lamb, pork and poultry products. If the origin of the product is unknown, that must be disclosed, as well.

Kane said the burden to verify the origin of meat will fall on retailers. Those unable or unwilling to do the task would mark the meat as ‘‘country of origin unknown,’’ he said.

Supporters say the law will help consumers who want to know where their food is from and cattle producers seeking an edge in the marketplace. Critics fear consumers will be bombarded with signs indicating an unknown origin, particularly for products such as hamburger, which may have more than one source.

The American Meat Institute also has argued that federal law pre-empts the Montana law and precludes the state from requiring labeling that is different from, or in addition to, what federal law requires.

Bill Donald, a rancher and president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said his group supports meat labeling philosophically but believes such a program should be driven from the national, rather than the state, level.

State Agriculture Director Nancy K. Peterson and rancher Dan Teigen, both of whom are on the advisory committee, say Montana can be a leader on the issue. A mandatory national program was delayed again last fall, this time until 2008.

Montana’s law is set to take effect Oct. 1.

‘‘There’s an element of the industry here, taking care of themselves here, rather than waiting for the big three (meat) packers to take care of us,’’ Teigen said.

The advisory committee has plenty of work to do. It must decide, among other things, what the placards will look like, the range of products that will be subject to labeling and guidelines for determining origin, Kane said.

‘‘This is so new,’’ said Margaret Novak, a Chester grocer on the panel. ‘‘Everything we say is hypothetical at this point.’’

Kane said the public will have an opportunity to comment on the rules, once they are proposed.

Japan’s ruling party sending inspection team to U.S. beef facilities

Japan’s ruling party sending inspection team to U.S. beef facilities

by John Gregerson
on 2/13/2006
for Meatingplace.com

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party said it is sending inspectors to U.S. beef facilities following reports from a senior agricultural official last week that downer cattle were slaughtered for human consumption at U.S. plants.

Japanese Vice Farm Minister Mamoru Ishihara said the U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered that meat from 20 downer cattle — animals who have difficulty walking, thought to be a symptom of mad cow disease — were released into the market.

“The U.S. has said it wants to improve [inspection procedures]. We’d like to ask for an explanation as to what is going on,” Ishihara said. He did not provide further details on the USDA report.

The delegation also was set to include a stop at a Tyson Foods Inc. facility in Kansas, according to an itinerary the party provided. A recent fact-finding mission by opposition lawmakers reportedly found the Kansas facility did not completely remove banned parts from the beef it processed. Tyson President and Chief Operating Officer Richard Bond bitterly denied the allegation, suggesting the charge was made for political reasons.

The Japanese government has been accused by opposition lawmakers of failing to inspect U.S. meat plants before resuming trade with the United States, an admission made recently by Agricultural Minister Shoichi Nakagawa.

Horse plants backed

Horse plants backed

USDA says meat facilities can pay for own inspections

10:22 AM CST on Wednesday, February 8, 2006

By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Ignoring congressional disdain for the horse meat industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it would allow slaughter of horses for human consumption to continue in Kaufman, Fort Worth and DeKalb, Ill.

Lawmakers cut off funding in November for inspection of such horses, whose meat ends up in kitchens in France, Japan and a handful of other countries. But the three plants that process horse offered to pay for their own inspections, and the Agriculture Department has agreed.

“It’s absolutely outrageous,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. “The agency is substituting the judgment of Belgian and French chefs for the judgment of Congress.”

Both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to cut funding for pre-slaughter horse inspections as part of an annual farm-spending bill. The House vote was 269-158, the Senate vote 69-28.

“USDA is playing games and thumbing its nose at Congress,” Mr. Markarian said.

But Steve Cohen, spokesman for the Agriculture Department’s Federal Meat Inspection Service, said that Congress never banned horse slaughter and that the department’s legal analysis concluded that the agency must still offer to inspect horses.

“Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, we are obligated to conduct inspections to certify safety and wholesomeness of the meat, whether it’s for domestic consumption or for export,” Mr. Cohen said.

The only issue for the Agriculture Department was who pays for the inspections.

Under the new rule, the meatpackers would pay $43.64 an hour, for 10 to 15 hours a week per plant, for a veterinarian to inspect live horses. Congress didn’t touch funding for inspection of horse meat, so that will continue as a taxpayer-provided service.

It’s unclear what recourse horse advocates will have if the Agriculture Department finalizes the rule, which is to take effect March 10 after a comment period.

Efforts to ban horse slaughter for human consumption have failed for several years, though bills are pending in House and Senate committees. The House version, written by U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., has 144 co-sponsors, including Democratic Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio and Gene Green and Al Green of Houston. The Senate version, by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has 14 co-sponsors.

“Commerce and greed have ruled the day,” Mr. Sweeney said of the Agriculture Department’s decision. “This action is a direct defiance of congressional intent and must be addressed.”

FULL STORY

2006 farm income expected to drop

2006 farm income expected to drop

Friday, February 10, 2006, 4:48 PM

by Tom Steever

The Brownfield Network

The USDA estimates that farm income will drop this year. In fact, compared to 2005, USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins expects farm income to drop $18 billion. “For example, in 2005 net farm cash income was nearly $83 billion. We are forecasting a drop to about $65 billion in 2006,” says Collins in an interview provided by the USDA, “that drop reflects lower cash receipts, mostly from crops,” explains Collins. In spite of the lower crop receipts, Collins maintains that the livestock sector faired better. “Livestock cash receipts stayed fairly strong because of strong beef cattle prices and because of large meat production expected in 2006,” says Collins.Along with a drop in crop receipts, Collins cites lower government payments to farmers. Most of the drop in federal farm payments is due to hurricane relief and other natural disasters, according to the USDA.

First Shipment of U.S. Beef Arrives in Taiwan After 8 Months

First Shipment of U.S. Beef Arrives in Taiwan After 8 Months

Yahoo Finance

TAIPEI, Feb 13 Asia Pulse – The first shipment of more than 7,000 kilograms of U.S. beef in nearly eight months arrived in Taiwan Saturday and is expected to hit the market next week at the earliest.

Department of Health (DOH) Minister Hou Sheng-mao and several animal health officials traveled to Chiang Kai-shek International Airport to look into customs inspection operations.

Customs clearance completed at 7: 55 p.m. Before the U.S. beef hits the market, the produce has to pass examinations by the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Council of Agriculture and by the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

It will take two to three days to complete examinations. If the examination results show the beef meets all health regulations, Hou said, the DOH will allow the produce to enter the market.

Hou said the DOH will make every possible effort to ensure food safety and protect consumer’s health.

U.S. beef is popular in Taiwan, but after the discovery of a single case of mad cow disease in Washington State in December 2003, Taiwan banned imports of U.S. beef and related produce.

The ban was lifted in April 2005, but imposed again three months later due to the discovery of a second case of mad cow disease.

Following the lead of some other Asian countries, the DOH quietly lifted the ban again Jan. 25. The move drew strong criticism as it came after Japan halted U.S. beef imports again in mid-December in the wake of the discovery of banned spinal bones in a shipment of American veal.

According to the DOH regulations, only trade in U.S. boneless beef from animals under 30 months of age is resumed.

Argentina sees beef bans expand due to FMD

Argentina sees beef bans expand due to FMD

by John Gregerson
on 2/13/2006
for Meatingplace.com

More markets have banned Argentine beef on due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, and Uruguay said it sent troops to its border with Argentina to disinfect vehicles and boost customs controls.

Argentine officials reported that Israel, South Africa and Colombia have joined Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay in imposing restrictions on Argentine beef imports. Meanwhile, Argentina’s government has declared a nationwide sanitary alert, which allows it to spend more freely on controls to keep the disease from spreading.

While not a surprise, the market closures were still a blow to Argentina. Beef exports hit a record $1.39 billion last year after a vaccination program helped the country regain its status as foot-and-mouth-free country. .

Israel is the No. 3 importer of fresh Argentine beef, by volume, after Russia and Chile. South Africa is the seventh-largest buyer of the cuts.